Back in the ice again! Day one in the rapidly changing ecosystem of the Antarctic Peninsula brought an exciting encounter with a group of Type B1 killer whales (seal predators) that were in robust body condition. This was a welcome contrast to an alarmingly thin group photographed last year (see image). These “pack ice killer whales” are perhaps the hardest to find in the world due to their inaccessible habitat that is often deep in the ice. Dr. Holly Fearnbach, SR3’s Marine Mammal Research Director, and her colleagues John Durban (NOAA) and Leigh Hickmott (Open Ocean Consulting) are focusing their research on understanding the health of top predators (killer whales) and top consumers (humpback and minke whales). The team uses an unmanned hexacopter to collect high-resolution images that are analyzed to estimate size and assess body condition of individual whales. They will be onboard Lindblad Expedition’s National Geographic Explorer for another 3 weeks - stay tuned for more updates!
These ongoing research efforts are supported by the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund (LEX-NG), NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center and SR3